Facing defeat after World War I, The Ottoman Empire, together with her allies, was compelled to sign the Mondros Armistice on October 30, 1918, which granted the victors total control in their redesign of the Ottoman State. Among the terms of the armistice was a provision that the entente powers could occupy areas deemed to be of strategic importance. These powers began to occupy Anatolia on November 1, 1918. Following the Greek occupation of Izmir, a national resistance movement was formed by the Society of the Defence of Rights (Müdafaa-i Hukuk) to repel the occupation forces. The military branch was called "Kuvay-i Milliye".

Despite the Society's best intentions, the movement remained disorganized until the arrival of Mustafa Kemal at Samsun. In addition to launching the War of Indepdendence, Kemal and his associates also began planning a new regime, in which the rule of State would be replaced by the rule of its citizens.

Even under these unprecedented conditions, Mustafa Kemal and his comrades remained loyal to the rules of a democratic regime, and took the first steps towards establishing a republic. On April 20, 1920, the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA) was founded to conduct the War of Independence despite the Ottoman parliament in occupied Istanbul.

A Turkish victory at the battle at Dumlupınar on August 26, 1922, called the "Battle of the Commander-in-Chief" (Başkomutanlık Savaşı), coupled with the liberation of Izmir on September 9, 1922 brought an end to the War of Independence. On July 24, 1923, the Lausanne Peace Treaty was signed and the TGNA announced on October 13, 1923 that Ankara was the new capital.

Preparation was underway for the establishment of a strong republic. On October 29, 1923, the Republic was proclaimed. Atatürk was then elected first President of the Republic of Turkey.

Atatürk's Reforms

Atatürk dedicated his life to legal, political and social reforms. First, important changes were made in the legislature. On April 20, 1924, the new Constitution was ratified, and in 1925 the traditional Crop Tax was lifted. In 1926 the Law of Obligations, and the Civil, Commercial and Criminal Codes were revised along western lines. The closing of Dervish retreats, the Hat Law, and the adoption of the Gregorian calendar all created deep-rooted changes in the state and community. The same year the Latin alphabet was adopted to replace the Arabic script.

The state structure was secularized in line with the sovereignty of the nation. The War of Independence, the Amasya Declaration, the Erzurum and Sivas Congresses, the establishment of the TGNA and the ratification of the 1921 Constitution all reflected the sovereign rights of the Turkish nation. This dealt a blow to the concept of a theocratic state. After the victory, the Sultanate and Caliphate were abolished (1922, 1924 respectively), the republic was proclaimed (1923), and the Canonical and Pious Foundations Ministry was closed (1924), all pointing to secularization. The article in the Constitution stating that the religion of the State was Islam, was deleted in 1928 and in 1937, the principle of secularism was inserted. The multi-party parliamentary system was introduced in 1946.

Turkey's model secularism differed from the classic western form in that though separation of religion and state was adopted, the State assumed control of religious affairs.
All Turkish citizens are free to practice their own religion and 98 % of the population is Moslem. No one is forced to attend religious gatherings, disclose their religious belief, and neither can they be discriminated against because of their religious practices.

With the proclamation of the Republic, efforts were exerted to bring the traditional structure of the community to a level of contemporary civilization. The woman's rights movement gained impetus during the Reform period and Atatürk granted women the same rights as men. The "women's revolution" brought about legal changes in the law concerning control of religious affairs by the State (1924), and the Apparel Law of 1926. Thus, the educational system was also secularized and women had the same right to an education as men. The veil was also abolished. Furthermore, the Civil Code ascertained a women's status in society not by a religious, but by a legal formula. Thus, polygamy was abolished. Both men and women were granted the same rights in the eyes of the law in regard to marriage, divorce and inheritance. Women were given the right to vote and be elected to municipal councils in 1930 and to the National Assembly in 1934.

Women's Rights today: The Constitution embraces the basic principle of sexual equality. There is no discrimination in public enterprises with regard to salaries. The International Labour Organization (ILO) agreement of 1951, stipulating equal pay for equal work was signed by Turkey in 1966. On July 24, 1985, the TGNA approved the agreement drawn up by the UN denouncing discrimination based on sex.

Atatürk also attached importance to developing relations with neighbouring countries and multilateral agreements such as the Balkan Agreement and the Sadabat Pact. Reciprocal visits of Turkish and Greek Prime Ministers were encouraged and the agreements signed were instrumental in creating an atmosphere of peace in the region. In 1936, the problem of the Bosphorus Straits was solved by the Montreux Convention followed in 1938 by a solution to the Hatay problem in accordance with Turkey's wishes.

During the past 76 years there have been economic and financial growth, and an increase of trade and human relations which safeguard universal values. The Republic of Turkey has achieved important developments in government administration, has established a pluralist parliamentary democratic regime that believes in secularism, has re-constructed its society, and has developed international relations and ties with related international organizations and institutions. The Republic has evaluated the latest developments in its geographical region, safeguards the principles of Atatürk, promotes its cultural, art and folkloric heritage, and has established a firm educational structure including sports activities.

In short, Turkey is proud of the reformist steps it has taken in relation to man's view of the world, aware of what it has accomplished so far, and sure of itself both today and tomorrow. Possessing all the advantages of its strong republic, bound to the principles of democracy, respect for human rights and aware of its national interests, the Republic of Turkey exerts every effort to solve its problems and constantly endeavours to improve the living standards of its citizens, all the while working to establish new and permanent friendship throughout the world. The Republic of Turkey, with its 76 years of experience, is sure that what it has accomplished thus far is a guarantee of what it can and will do in the future. Ever conscious of universal values, with deep respect for democracy and human rights, Turkey looks ahead to a healthy and happy future with hope, enthusiasm and determination.

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